FairTest Tells Maryland Legislators to Cap Testing Time

TESTIMONY IN SUPPORT OF SENATE BILL 452

 

MARYLAND SENATE EDUCATION, HEALTH & ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

ROBERT A. SCHAEFFER, PUBLIC EDUCATION DIRECTOR

NATIONAL CENTER FOR FAIR & OPEN TESTING (FAIRTEST)

 

FEBRUARY 15, 2017

 

Committee Chair Conway, Vice Chair Pinsky, Committee Members: I am Robert Schaeffer, Public Education Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, known as FairTest.  Founded in 1985 by leaders of civil rights, education, and student groups, FairTest works to make assessment fair, open and educationally sound. We oppose standardized exam overuse and misuse while advocating for assessments that support deeper learning and better teaching.

FairTest is pleased to endorse Senate Bill 452, the “Less Testing, More Learning Act of 2017.” A cap of 2% on classroom time spent on federal, state and district-mandated standardized testing is a modest step to protect classroom time for education. It is consistent with U.S. Department of Education guidance issued in 2015 and with the initiatives of several other states. Yet, surveys by the Maryland Department of Education show that many local schools exceed that level, some by double the hours or more.

Let me be clear: FairTest does not oppose assessments that help improve learning and teaching. For example, we support performance-based assessments, such as those for social studies included in this bill.

However, an excessive emphasis on standardized testing does not help schools attain those laudable goals. Instead, research has shown that current testing volumes narrow curriculum to the tested topics, particularly when exams are high stakes. Other important subjects, such as art, music, finance, foreign languages and physical education are downplayed or ignored.

Twenty to twenty-two hours of standardized testing per year (2% of Maryland’s minimum 180, six-hour school days) is more than sufficient to assess student learning progress. Both the ACT and SAT claim to measure college readiness in three hours or less.

The 2% cap will not cover the large number of hours schools spend prepping students for exams. Nor does it include the time teachers devote to their own assessments from spelling tests to science projects, mid-terms, writing portfolios, oral presentations and final exams.

We are heartened that this bill creates District Committees on Assessments. That will ensure conversation with local stakeholders about the optimal assessment program, rather than encouraging districts to simply cut the most time-intensive, rather than the least instructionally useful, tests. It is now time for the Maryland Legislature to step in to guarantee less testing and more learning for the state’s public school students. FairTest urges the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee to approve Senate Bill 452 and send it to the floor for a vote. We stand ready to provide any additional information needed for your deliberations.

Thank you.  I would be pleased to answer any questions.

Robert A. Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
office-   (239) 395-6773   fax-  (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468

email: bobschaeffer@earthlink.net   web-  http://www.fairtest.org